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Getting Your Message Out

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M Deschamps

on 31 January 2015

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Transcript of Getting Your Message Out

Online Activism and Social Media:
Your Thoughts
Part 1 - Social Media: Going beyond "Slacktivism"
Why use social media?
The basics (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs)
Connecting across platforms
Staying relevant
Responsible social media use
Going "viral"
Allows organizations and people to communicate and build networks outside of traditional media

Message is your own, and is not filtered through others and their interests

Allows people to engage with one another, even if they would not normally engage in real life

Part 1: Why Social Media?
Getting Your Message Out:
How to Effectively Engage with Media
Why Facebook?
Widely used medium

Best social media tool for older audiences

Easy to search, especially when looking for posts from the past

Good statistical data to track who is viewing content on pages

Presented by MJ Deschamps and Carissa Taylor
What role should social media play in activism?
Can it strengthen mobilization - or does it make movements more fragmented?
Part 2 - Getting the Most out of the Media
The other side of the screen: Journalist frustrations
Working with the media (developing literature, media lists)
Writing and servicing a news release
Media interviews: Before, During and After
Mobilizing beyond coverage
Activity: Putting things into practice
The Basics
Facebook Page
Why Twitter?
Platform to engage with a diverse group of people

Used often by those in media, and can be effective for grassroots organizing

Forces you to be concise in messaging, which will often be better remembered
Why Instagram?
Often used by a younger demographic

Entirely picture-sharing, so is more attractive to some

Allows promotion of organization after events

Why Blog?
Great tracking of traffic to the blog

Allows you to be less brief in terms of the information you are trying to communicate. Great if you want to explain complex issues and why they should matter

Easily searchable
Connecting Across Platforms
There are tools to share messages across different platforms, in order to reach broad audiences with limited effort
Examples include Twitter streams on blogs, or sharing pictures from Instagram on Twitter and Facebook

Staying Relevant
In order to stay relevant, make sure to engage with your audience across these platforms on a regular basis
Use hashtags effectively. What matters most in the information you are communicating?
Stay informed about different things that are happening, by following key people and organizations on Twitter

In order to stay relevant, make sure to engage with your audience across these platforms on a regular basis

Use hashtags effectively. What matters most in the information you are communicating?

Stay informed about different things that are happening, by following key people and organizations on Twitter

Responsible Social Media Use
Retweeting other people’s tweets can be useful, but going overboard dilutes your own message

Make sure communications are appropriate

Do not engage with "trolls"

Feel free to retweet other’s tweets about your organization; it shows you are paying attention and that others are as well

Pictures are important in social media

Don't try too hard to be "cool"

Limit how often you tweet self-promotion of the same event

Try to use similar graphics across mediums. It looks more professional and is easily recognizable

The Bad
What is "Going Viral"?
Sometimes things shared over social media gain traction and become hugely popular- or "go viral"

Going viral can be good, but oftentimes things that go viral are bad or embarrassing

Focus on being responsible on social media, rather than being ridiculous to gain popularity

Part 2: Getting the Most out of the Media
On the Other Side of the Screen

“One of the most ineffective things activists/non-profits do is attempting to inject theory into their interviews. For example, multiple activists at an anti-tar sands demonstration spend long stretches of the interview talking about the need to strengthen the movement. That's not interesting to the public and only muddles any message.”

– Newspaper Reporter/Editor

Working with the Media: Developing Literature & Creating Media Lists
Have at least one brochure, factsheet, or flier that identifies your organization and its purpose and goals. Even if you aren't planning on postering or doing outreach, they're excellent to have on hand to give to journalists at events, or send via email.

Create a media list and organize it into categories (wire services, print media, radio, television)
Make a list of assignment editors/city editors and record your interactions with them (reactions, reception)

Find out publications' deadlines and make a list of local TV news broadcast times - plan demonstrations/send press releases at appropriate times to maximize coverage
Casting Your Net:
How to Write a News Release

“The most ineffective press releases are disjointed and overbearing. For example, the worst ones will relentlessly emphasize how grassroots and diverse their group is, which comes off as vapid and desperate...as for effective press releases, just be clear, concise and informational - clearly answer what, why, where, when, how, and you'll be fine.”

- Newspaper Reporter

How Do I Make My News Release Stand Out
(And Look Professional)?
Use the inverted pyramid style
Answer the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) in the first paragraph
Keep things short - never go over a page in length
Write a concise, catchy headline that summarizes the story/event
Use quotations from prominent members of your organization
Use case studies - the human element is important
Always include contact information (and be available to answer the phone when a journalist calls!)
Edit, edit, edit
Email your press release - but phone with your exclusives
Type NEWS RELEASE or FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE at the top of the page and in the subject line of the email (It may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many organizations don't do this)
-30- (Now you know this is the end of the slide)
Servicing Your News Release
Before sending out your news release, establish what you want to accomplish – do you want something printed or broadcast before the event, or do you want the media to attend and cover the event? Is it a fundraiser or a protest? Is your goal to gain support via bodies, or gain press for a small, focused demonstration?

Keep in mind that reporters need an angle – the more newsworthy, the better. Remember: timeliness, proximity, prominence, conflict, novelty and importance.

Send your news release at least two weeks in advance, and call the newsdesk (or appropriate editors/reporters) to follow up. Do not call close to deadlines/press time/broadcast time - and please don't "spam" the journalists.

Return calls to journalists promptly

If informing press of an event, ensure the time you tell them to arrive is the ideal time for them to see your event
Conducting Media Interviews:
What to do Before, During, and After
Why give a media interview anyway?
What are some of the pros and cons?
Conducting Media Interviews:
Prepare well - but don't overprepare. Study the issue, and think clearly about what you want to get out of the interview, and how you want to be perceived.
Identify the main points you with to get across, and be sure to make them - even if the journalist's questions don't make it easy
Anticipate difficult issues and challenging questions
When a journalist calls for a reactive interview, never answer with "no comment" (instead, ask them a few questions first)
Appoint a spokesperson to answer media questions, identify key message(s), find pertinent case studies, and inform other participants - journalists will typically want 2-3 "voices" for their stories
Memorize good quotations, anecdotes and facts
Banish jargon from your vocabulary
Be concise: For TV and radio interviews especially, the journalist is looking for that 10-15 second soundbite. Be able to squeeze your key message into this time frame.
Practice with colleagues to identify unclear explanations and mitigate nerves
Conducting Media Interviews:
Be clear and concise - do not give answers that are too long or convoluted
Start and end by emphasizing your key message
Don't feel restricted by the questions posed
When faced with a question you were not expecting, or are not sure how to answer, employ "bridging" techniques ("but what's really important...", "to return to my original point...."
Watch out for some common pitfalls (having words put in your mouth, rebuttals, negatives)
Fielding negative questions
Live versus recorded interviews
What do I wear....and what on earth do I do with my hands?
Be confident - remember, YOU are the expert on your cause!
Conducting Media Interviews:
Not all press is good press - but not all good press is
Getting a good story written about your cause/organization is only the first step
Gather your clippings, make recordings and send them to your local representative
Stay in touch with media contacts to create beneficial relationships
No events going on? Write a letter to the editor to stay relevant and in the media
Post interviews and news stories on blogs and social media to make the most out of your message
Putting General Principles into Practice:
Mock Interview
Has anyone ever had a particularly positive or negative experience with the media?
What do you think the media's role is (or should be) in communicating activist/community-based messages?
How do you feel the media in general represents activist groups/individuals and social movements?
What group or organization are you from?
What might be a reason the media would contact you for an interview?
What might be your key message?
"From what I've experienced working on a few different current affairs shows, there's always a lot of potential content and it's a matter of curating the strongest show possible. That means that regardless of whether a cause is worthy of attention, it needs to make for good programming or we won't bite. Here in Ottawa, press conferences are ubiquitous and tend to produce better sound bites than interviews. What helps in making them resonate is to make them human. Provide speakers who are informed and can speak authoritatively on the issue -- but also speakers who reflect the heart of the matter. It's effective to hear the author of a study about rape call for more support for victims of sexual assault -- but it's more effective when that's followed by a sexual assault survivor speaking from experience. Articulate, informed speakers result in good interviews, but the best way to convey a message in an interview is by making an emotional connection. Regardless of the event -- press conference, rally or fundraiser -- that's always going to inspire a producer to pick up the phone."

- Radio Reporter/Producer
"When I get a press release about an event or a cause, the first thing I look for is whether it's something we've already covered. As much as I wish it wasn't this way, the nature of today's news cycle means that if we've done the story and nothing has changed, we won't be up for doing it again. If your event is an annual one, let us know what's different this time. What has evolved since we last talked about your cause? What is your organization doing differently this time around? If there's a local connection, make it clear how your issue relates to our audience. Why should people care? It's important that the press release gives me a sense of the who, what, where, when, and why -- but without bombarding me with too much information. The second thing I'll look for is contact information -- who is the contact person? If I'm looking to book an interview about this for the same day, I'll need a reliable number to call. The earlier the better when it comes to sending out press releases; in our newsroom, we have a calendar they get filed into. Then, there's nothing wrong with checking in again a couple of days before an event, to make sure it's still on our radar."

- Radio Producer
The News Media on Social Media

“It becomes increasingly important to more narrowly sculpt your argument, of which social media can aid greatly. An umbrella Facebook page or Twitter feed for a protest allows activists greater message control, which despite the negative connotations isn't always a scary thing. Opponents of your cause will look to demonize you by attacking the most radical elements of a protest/cause, so it becomes vitally important to ensure that you stay on message and not stray off course.”
– Newspaper reporter

"The great thing about social media is that it's a fast way of reaching a lot of people. A lot of our stories come from things people have seen on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit. Something as simple as attaching that hashtag (or an equivalent one elsewhere) can make the difference between your tweet being noticed or not. The same thing goes for sending targeted tweets using Twitter handles. It's probably important to mention that not all tweets that get noticed are actually informative or helpful -- sometimes they're just white noise and can actually be annoying. Using social media effectively means offering value with your posts -- so provide images and links to further information, and don't make a post on Facebook or Twitter unless you have something to say. It's also important to have a social media profile that looks professional rather than personal; your logo is a better profile picture than a shot of you and your cat."
- Radio producer
Full transcript